Author: Jake Wells
Purchase at Dreamspinner
Purchase at All Romance eBooks
Cover Artist: Leah Kaye Suttle
Genre: contemporary, medical
Length:344 pages, 139k words
Formats: epub, mobi, pdf, ziphtml, paperback
Blurb: Zack Sheldon doesn’t have time to be lonely. He’s in his last year as a pediatric resident, almost married to the job, and busy with the joys and sorrows that come with providing medical care to children. Professionally, he’s confident, accomplished, and respected. But personally he’s too insecure to approach a sexy man like Sergio Quartulli, or even to imagine that Sergio might be attracted to him.
Zack spots Sergio from across the gym, and then a chance meeting poolside somehow turns into a date. Before Zack knows it, they’ve become a couple, but Zack’s white coat is his closet at the hospital, and committing to a relationship with Sergio makes it difficult for Zack to continue hiding behind it. On the other hand, he grew up in a small town where being gay was shameful, and he works in an environment that can sometimes be homophobic, so it’s hard for him to open up about who he really is. Before Zack can make a choice on his own terms, circumstances force him to make a decision. He can continue to hide, or he can step out from behind his white coat and risk everything for love.
I really, really wanted to like this book. I love medical themes and conflicted heroes, and the proceeds going to a good cause was a nice touch. As it turned out, there was a great plot in search of writing to do it justice.
Jake, our first person POV protag, is in the closet at work and intends to stay there since he’s subordinate to people who may well make his life hell if they know. Living a double life is working his nerves, especially after he meets Sergio, a hot Italian waiter with confidence to spare. More a coming out story than a romance, we’re still rooting for Jake and Sergio to make it work. Jake’s confident at work, but really insecure in his private life. We don’t often see the actual male jitters, and what Jake worries about is probably a lot commoner than we’re offered in books
We follow Jake working on self acceptance and in his relationship growth, and in his growth as a healer, where he has to learn to balance his caring with enough detachment to survive practicing medicine. Everything comes together for a bang-up ending. It’s a good arc.
The writing, alas… Or possibly the editing should have been done with a scalpel rather than a pen. As Elmore Leonard advised: when you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip. That would have slimmed this book down by around 30%. From long, scatological, and ultimately irrelevant stories told over a drink to enough directions in medical procedures to coach the reader through doing them cold, everything was treated in so much detail that the actual story drowned in the sea of text.
Much of the dialog sounds more like textbooks: it's mostly the rotten people who sound real. Sergio has only been in this country for seven years and learned English on the fly, but his speech has the same rhythm, structure, and word choice as his well-educated, native speaker lover. That makes Sergio more background than part of the story: we’re not hearing Sergio as a person, we’re hearing him filtered through Jake’s head and memories.
While I am glad I ultimately finished this book, I wish the execution had matched the concept. 2.75 marbles